Nine


Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by:Michael Tolkin, Anthony Minghella
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren
Released: January 21, 2010
Grade: B+

Any lover of great cinema will be familiar with Italian director Federico Fellini and his film entitled 8 ½.  It was a semi-autobiographical work which centred on a famous filmmaker’s love life and his struggles to make a new movie.  The film won the Academy Award for best foreign language picture in 1964 and it has a permanent place inside the top 250 list on the Internet Movie Database.

In 1982, a musical version of Fellini’s movie debuted on Broadway with the late Raul Julia in the leading role.  It too was highly regarded and won five Tony Awards including best musical.  The show has since been performed countless times across the globe – everywhere from Argentina to Tokyo.

It’s now time for Fellini’s tale to return to the big screen once again.  This adaptation of the musical has been directed by the brilliant Rob Marshall.  If you’re looking for an example of Marshall’s artistry, make sure you check out Chicago.  It was my favourite release of 2003 – a gorgeously colourful film which seamlessly mixes story and song.

In Nine, Marshall once again proves his worth from behind the camera lens.  He weaves the narrative amongst the beautifully directed musical numbers.  Some sequences are shot in black and white, as if in reverence to Fellini’s masterpiece.  With a dazzling set and an alluring cast, all the ingredients are in place to make this movie a true spectacle.

But alas, something is missing.  I found the songs to be somewhat unmemorable.  That may sound puzzling given all the awards which the original musical took home but it’s just how I felt.  There were very few scenes that had me clicking my fingers or wanting me to stand up and sing.  This was a distinct contrast from the more “commercial” Chicago.  I could listen to the “Cell Block Tango” all day long.

I should provide a quick plot overview for those unfamiliar with the storyline.  Daniel Day Lewis plays Guido Contini, an iconic film director who is about to start shooting his latest movie.  It’s not looking good though - he hasn’t even written a script!  In a last ditched attempt of overcome his writer’s block, Contini flees Rome and heads to the coastal village of Anzio to clear his thoughts.

Over the next few days, he will confront many of the women who have shaped his life.  They include his wife (Cotillard), his mistress (Cruz), his loyal costume designer (Dench), his leading lady (Kidman) and his mother (Loren).  Can Contini use their wisdom to pull himself together and get his new movie finished on time?

With such a terrific cast, it’s a shame that we don’t get to see more of them.  Daniel Day Lewis is amazing in the lead but most of the female cast are limited to one song each.  Marion Cotillard outshone them all with my favourite moment in the film – her heartfelt rendition of “My Husband Makes Movies”.

I’m giving Nine an overall “thumbs up”.  I’ve a hunch that it’ll take multiple viewings to fully appreciate the songs and their lyrics.  Keen to see it again, I am.